WM MLN: Walk-off Wins Hide Offensive Concerns

Launching this past week with a thrilling come from behind, extra inning, walk-off triumph, the Whitecaps were able to shove some of their glaring offensive deficiencies under the rug for the time being. Winning has a penchant for doing that which is exactly what the Tigers' Midwest League affiliate did over their homestand, finishing at 4-2 that included another walk-off win Monday.

Last week Wednesday, the ‘Caps needed extra innings to not only win, but also come from behind in the bottom of the tenth inning all thanks to the bat of none other than Eugenio Suarez. Walk-off victories tend to add to the momentum of your ballclub, especially when those instances involve rallying late in the game.

Monday night was the same story. Trailing the entire game until the eighth inning, the ‘Caps were able to storm back in the ninth to steal the win. Manager Ernie Young knows it's something his young team can build on as the season begins to wind down.

"It does your team pretty good to win like that", commented a smiling Young after the game. "After a tough loss last night, we were able to come back tonight, battle and keep the score the way that it was and gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. Last night we didn't get the clutch at bat when we needed it and today we put several clutch at bats together. We were just playing baseball out there and manufacturing runs."

If they're going to continue down this path of harvesting clutch hits and winning tight games, they're going to have to do it without their left handed designated hitter, Dean Green. Activated from the Disabled List last week Thursday, the Tigers sent their 6-foot-4, 255 pound slugger to Lakeland instead of back to West Michigan.

After spending nine games rehabbing down in the Gulf Coast League, it's unfortunate for the Whitecaps that he won't be finding and regaining his swing back in West Michigan. Concern should still be shown regarding the overall offensive attack of the ‘Caps' this season and it's going to be that much harder without a perennial power hitter like Green in their lineup. It's been a new type of team here in the second half and this team needs to begin to gel all over again despite the many players coming and going – rather it be because of injury or promotions.

Two guys that have responded well lately to the offensive needs of the ‘Caps have been Jeff McVaney and Aaron Westlake. McVaney, a 2012 Tigers' draft pick, has provided pop to the lineup with a .282 average through 31 games. Westlake has completely turned in the other direction from a rough first half to a resurgent second half. With a .317 average in his last ten games, manager Ernie Young talked about his first baseman having to learn the hard way that life is different in the pros.

"He probably didn't realize how tough professional baseball was going to be," said Young of last year's draft pick. "It's real tough up here and sometimes you have to throw out all the accolades that you had in college because it's much different here. Everybody learns you have to do that when you get to this point."

Powerful Pitching Performances

The ‘Caps' series against Burlington was subjugated by pitching. After a three-game series against Peoria that featured 38 combined runs to begin their six game homestand, the next two games were all about the man on the mound. Thomas Collier and Marcelo Carreno pooled with Burlington's pair of starters to allow only one run on ten hits over 23 innings, including a span of 21 scoreless innings pitched by the Whitecaps' pitching staff. Burlington's personnel then counterattacked by not allowing the Whitecaps to score over a span of 20 innings.

On the plus side of a 5-0 shutout the first night, the ‘Caps were then shut out the following game of the series for the tenth time this year. That is the most shutout losses in a season since the 2008 campaign when West Michigan was held without a run 14 times. That season, however, they made the playoffs but obviously it's yet to be seen how this year will fare.

To add to the pitching dominance was relief pitcher Ramon Lebron who pitched three scoreless innings Monday to keep his team in the game and help lead to the eventual comeback win. Known for his electric stuff on the mound, he can also get himself into trouble fairly quick. But Young claims it was his best outing so far this season.

"Tonight, he was outstanding and this was Lebron's best game of the year," said Young of Monday night's performance. "He came in, threw strikes and commanded the strike zone. He kept the score at 2-0 and gave us an opportunity to come back and tie the ballgame."

Speaking of pitching, Young also had a few comments about the Tigers' players involved in the big trade yesterday that sent TigsTown prospect #2, Jacob Turner, along with Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn, to the Florida Marlins.

"I had Flynn and Brantly last year who were both very good players. Flynn came in from the draft and pitched very well for us which is why he got promoted to Lakeland to start this season. And obviously Brantly was promoted through the halfway point of the season last year. He started the season in Double-A and finished in Triple-A so that shows you how high on the list he was as a prospect in the organization."

West Michigan benefited from their third Tuesday off in a row yesterday before having to hop on the bus this morning headed toward Lake County to begin a six game road trip. Next week Tuesday marks the first game of a short four game series back at home for the ‘Caps.

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